I remember where I was the first time I heard the story. I was a freshman sports reporter for The Post. Back in the mid-1990s, The Post was on the first floor of the old Baker Center on the side of the building nearest Court Street. It was within those artificially-lit green and white rooms that many great journalism careers were launched, probably along with several cases of rickets.
In the newsroom, sitting at a computer that today has the processing power of a modern toaster, my sports editor Rachael Larimore (nee Brandon) explained the Ohio University-Miami of Ohio sports rivalry. “Miami is our biggest rival,” Rachael said. “Our alumni band beat up their football team a few years ago. We don’t like them. Now they really don’t like us.”
Since then, I’ve heard variations of that story. It’s the 1992 homecoming game at Peden Stadium. Sometimes the Marching 110, not the alumni band, fights the Miami football team. Sometimes a Miami coach and a member of the alumni band get into a fight. The one consistent facet of the story is that it’s repeated by alumni who are not ashamed to be associated with an alumni band that stepped up to Division I football players.
Last fall my wife and I returned to Athens for a semester, and many of the old stories were retold with friends at Jackie O’s, Lucky’s and Tony’s. The alumni band-Miami story came up, and I thought, “Someone should write about that.”
Then I remembered I was someone and I write. So I started asking around, and the story I was told was not the story I had expected to hear. It was better.
As we alumni like to tell it, our alumni band got in the faces of Miami football players who were disrespecting our band. But that wasn’t the real struggle that occurred that day. The struggle that was much more interesting—and worth writing about—was the one that took place within the 110.
Put yourself in a 110 member’s shoes: You’re playing at halftime in front of the biggest crowd in Peden Stadium history, it’s homecoming, you’re beating your archrival, you’re amped because this is the highlight of your season and suddenly Miami football players are wading through your ranks. The crowd is booing louder than you’ve ever heard any crowd boo, a Miami assistant coach is tackling a member of the alumni band, and there is yelling and screaming and pushing and shoving—involving your friends and mentors—and it’s all happening right in front of you.
How do you keep your concentration? Do you put down your instrument and jump in to help your friends out? Or do you stick to your training and keep playing?
That’s the real fight at the heart of “The Marching Band Refused to Yield: The true story of the time Ohio University’s alumni band fought the Miami of Ohio football team,” which is available on Amazon and can be read on virtually any computer or smart device.
Joe Donatelli is an Ohio University alumnus and was managing editor of The Post in 1997-98.